Housework is a strange beast, isn't it? Pay it too much attention, give it too much value and it can cause resentment, stifle creativity (no Darling, those crayons are just for show), and be a breeding-ground for obsessive behaviour. Pay it not enough, and it can wreak havok in the home(um, honey, did you throw out my Passport again?)
So I thought I'd revisit this idea today, and write down my Cleaning Ritual. This is kind of a pep talk-to-Self, because this morning I came close to feeling overwhelmed and panicked at the thought of trying to clean my (currently chaotic) flat. And then I remembered to stop being a perfectionist, and voila, there is now a haven of beauty amidst the squalor - a clean bathroom.
How to Clean, clutterpunk-style:
1. Don an Apron
This bright, smock-style apron has been the best op-shop find ever. The colours are very happifying. Putting it on makes me feel cheerful and slightly silly, which is the best way to feel when doing housework. And of course, it's extremely practical. But mostly just silly.
2. Work while the kids are AWAKE.
There is precious-little kid-free time for me, so I'm not going to squander it on the housework! This has been a liberating decision for me. Some of you are probably thinking 'well, duh!' and others may be thinking 'What?! Do a non-child-centred activity?!' Yes, it can be a slow and frustrating process to try to clean while the boys are roaming around. But it's good for us all. They learn to entertain themselves. I learn to do a 'good-enough' job in short time-spans. Alternatively, they 'help' with the cleaning, which means it becomes an activity in its own right, teaching its own valuable lessons. And I learn to be patient with small 'helpers'.
3. Adopt the ONE ROOM rule
Very simple. I'm only allowed to think about cleaning ONE ROOM at a time. This self-imposed rule has changed me. It's so important to work in manageable chunks, to set realistic goals. The perfectionist in me wants to clean it all, brilliantly, right now. The reaction to such a ridiculous goal is inevitably procrastination, avoidance and feelings of failure. If ONE ROOM has been cleaned and there is time for more, then I'm allowed to think about it. But one is better than none.
4. Use the Tub Method
My first task after choosing ONE ROOM is to march into it with a big laundry tub. I then weed out everything that doesn't belong in that room, place it in the laundry tub - and take the laundry tub elsewhere, to be dealt with later.
This is where my method breaks down, and we usually have at least one laundry tub full of random items that floats from room to room, either because I don't get around to putting it away, or I'm still not sure where the 'stuff' should live yet. On the bright side, it keeps the surface mess down, and we know where to rummage if we've lost something.
5. Bicarb + Vinegar + Washcloths = Bliss
Sadly I'm only a relatively recent convert to these products. I tried once before and wasn't convinced, it all felt too hard, but since trying again almost a year ago, I'm sold. I could wax lyrical about them all day. Why? Here's a quick run-down:
- Effective - I've found cleaning soap scum a doddle
- People-safe - No big deal if the kiddies swallow them, which helps with point 2. I'm also doing a better job cleaning because I can jump in and scrub away without burning my skin or inhaling scary fumes.
- Earth-friendly - less chemical weirdies, less packaging, non-polluting, blah blah.
- Simple and Economical - yes, really, we do not need 18 different types of Wham-Bam-Whatever, just one lot of products for everything.
- Weight-loss - oh, I wish. But a bit more elbow-grease can be required, and thus I do consider scrubbing the bath or oven a bit of exercise these days!
As for using washcloths... good texture for scrubbing, absorbent, hardy, endlessly washable and reusable. 'Nuff said.
This one might sound a bit weird. Oh well. Because really, a repetitious and mindless task like cleaning is the perfect opportunity to do some reflecting. (I'm defining meditation here as reflection/contemplation rather than emptying the mind). If I don't choose something to think about while I clean, my mind likes to go into default mode, which often involves grumbly, resentful thoughts about cleaning, or anxious thoughts about all the things I should or could be doing. Instead, I find that thinking deliberately about a craft project, or praying for people I know, or (gasp!) concentrating on the task at hand, is very soothing and a much better use of my time.
So, that's me. I've come clean. Got anything I should add to the mix? Before I head off to clean something, that is...
PS I'm having formatting fights with Blogger. Apologies for ugly layout.